The University of Miami students returned to campus from winter break on Saturday, just in time to see the Hurricanes win their first conference game of the season, 76-65 over Wake Forest.
The Canes were desperate for a win after losing their first three league games for the first time since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004. Despite having to make do with a seven-man rotation, Miami had plenty of energy left in the second half and pulled ahead late for the win.
UM trailed by one at the half, but took control after the break with some clutch threes by DJ Vasiljevic, heady decisions and perfect free-throw shooting by point guard Chris Lykes, and strong play around the basket by Ebuka Izundu. Sam Waardenburg helped with timely rebounds and a slick back-door pass to Anthony Mack for a layup to open the gap.
Lykes, a 5-7 dynamo, led Miami with 25 points – 19 of those in the second half. He was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line and had four assists.
Vasiljevic finished with 14 points. Izundu had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Mack, starting his third game in a row, added nine.
“Lykes has a great feel, and has been blessed with an unbelievable burst and change of speed,” said Wake Forest coach Danny Manning. “He is exceptionally fast. You can’t mimic what he is on the scout team.”
UM coach Jim Larranaga said of Lykes: “He’s crazy, but he’s also crazy good. You never know what to expect. He might come down and not make a single pass and launch a 30-footer. Next time, he’ll come down the floor, drive the lane and throw an around-the-back pass into the stands. The next time he buries that same shot or the around-the-back pass leads to a dunk. He is what he is -- an aggressive attacking guard who can shoot and score in a lot of different ways.”
UM took its biggest first-half lead, 31-25, on a Zach Johnson three-pointer three minutes before intermission, and the Demon Deacons answered with an 8-1 run to close out the half. But Miami dominated the second half, and Wake Forest struggled from beyond the arc (7-of-33) and got to the free throw line just nine times while UM was 19-of-23 from the line.
Chaundee Brown led Wake with 22 points.
“Coming into the game, we set some very specific goals for our team, we are able to achieve some of those, and that made all the difference in the world,” Larranaga said “We have a great deal of respect for Danny Manning and his team and their ability to score. They get to the foul line a lot, 28 to 30 times a game. We don’t have a very deep team, so we tried to do everything we could to keep our players out of foul trouble.”
Junior forward Dewan Hernandez remained on the bench for the 16th game in a row as he awaits a decision from the NCAA on his final appeal to be reinstated. He was declared ineligible because of his contact with an aspiring agent last season.
Hernandez’s attorney, Jeff Setchen, said the appeal will be heard on Monday afternoon. Hernandez has been practicing and is itching to play. He is so dedicated to the team that he drove to Tallahassee to sit on the bench for Wednesday’s game at Florida State.
The Hurricanes (9-7) have a week off to prepare for a Jan. 19 noon home game against No. 12 North Carolina. The Tar Heels (12-4) lost 83-62 Saturday to Louisville.